France and Germany are turning back the clock to spring, reintroducing some form of national lockdown as COVID-19 cases surge across Europe.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced that new lockdown measures would take effect on Friday and last through at least the end of November. People in France will only be allowed to leave their homes for essential work or medical reasons, and non-essential businesses like restaurants and bars will close. Night curfews are also in place in select regions of France, affecting around two-thirds of the country — 46 million people.
“The virus is circulating at a speed that not even the most pessimistic forecasts had anticipated,” said Macron. “Like in the spring, you will be able to leave your house only to work, for a medical appointment, to provide assistance to a relative, to shop for essential goods or to go for a walk near your house.”
Schools, factories, and public services will remain open during this time. Visits to care homes — which had been banned during the last lockdown — will be permitted. The measures will be reassessed every two weeks after December 1, in hopes that these strict measures will curb the virus’ spread.
Germany is enacting similar but softer restrictions. A four-week partial lockdown will take effect on November 2, with social contact limited to two households and a maximum of 10 people, and the closure of movie theaters, bars, leisure facilities, and indoor restaurant dining. To ease the blow, smaller companies affected by the lockdown will be reimbursed with up to 75 percent of their November 2019 earnings.
“Our health system can cope with the challenge today,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel, “But if the pace of infections continues like this, then we’ll reach the limits of what the health system can manage within weeks.”